Plastic & Beer

I write this post on St. Patrick’s Day, after having spent the morning with my family at my first ever parade in Baton Rouge.  While I had never really heard much about the St. Patty’s Day parade, I’ve heard about the legendary Mardi Gras parades of South Louisiana for years.  From what I could tell, this was pretty much the same thing – but with cheaper floats and the crowd looking like they just stepped out of the Emerald City.  As I stood there on Perkins Road with my family, taking it all in, I tried to figure out what was really the point of it all.  And I think the main point was this:

People were looking to have a good time.  In South Louisiana, good times are never far away as long as there is plenty of beer and beads.  And both were in abundance in Baton Rouge today.  In the midst of this Cajun/Irish festival, I realized several things: 

Our hearts are so easily captured.  Put a few guys and gals on a trailer with some loud music and cheap plastic beads and other assorted junk, and our hearts suddenly become convinced that catching this stuff is the most important thing in the world.  I wish I could say I did not give in to this bead-snagging impulse.  But the truth is, I was whooping and hollering and even holding my kid up now and then as bait to the loot-flingers.  Our hearts are easily captured.

On the brighter side, I realized what brought me joy today was not hauling in a neckload of leftover green Mardi Gras beads (although my son now has beads enough to last a lifetime).  My joy came from simply being with the people I most love – my family.  Standing there with my wife, arm in arm for the world to see that she’s with me.  Walking about with my son, who was not captivated by the beads, but thrilled at every pebble he found on the road.  Sharing a fine morning out on the town with my in-laws (Pops and MaMa).  Chatting in the backyard with my mother-in-law (Nana) and her best friend (MeMa) while my son happily runs bare-bottomed back and forth across the driveway pushing his Thomas train.  Who cares when the next parade is, I’ve got access to good times every day around here!

The most unexpected moment came after we decided we were all just one beaded necklace short of a trip to the chiropractor, and began fighting the gravitational pull of the loot-mobiles to head for lunch.  My wife and I were walking with our son hand in hand between us, talking about our morning’s adventures.  Suddenly, a young man who looked to be about 18 or 20 years old pulled away from his girlfriend and walked right up to our son.  Before we really even had a chance to get nervous, he brandished a plastic samurai sword – clearly his best catch of the day – and offered it to my son.  My beaming son told the guy, “Thanks!” and began swinging it and pulling it in and out of its sheath – suddenly a dangerous warrior facing a vast army of bead-garbed bad guys.  I was happy for my son.  I mean, what boy doesn’t feel better about life with a good sword in his hands?  And I was happy for the young man who had his eyes and heart open enough to seize an opportunity to make the day better for someone else. 

Lookin’ for a good time?  It’s not in plastic or beer or any of the other stuff we get so busy hauling into our lives.  Not that the stuff is bad.  It just doesn’t touch the heart and bring joy.  No, the Real good times are found when we open our eyes and hearts to the people around us and share a little love.  (Interestingly, the experience of today clearly reflected the messages of two of my favorite books of the Bible – Ecclesiastes and Philippians.)  So, this St. Patty’s Day, here’s to living more in the wisdom and joy of the simple pleasures of life – touching people with love.

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